Saturday, May 29, 2010

Dharavi Slum, Day 14

In the morning we all woke up at 8:30 AM had some room service and got ready for our adventure to the slum that Heather had setup for us. Reality Kids tour company came and picked us up. Our guide was Thomas, such a wonderful man. Reality kids is owned by a British man and has been open for 5 years. I learned so much while on the tour and made sure to take lots of notes. Here are the stats on Mumbai and the slum we toured:
--> Reality kids are one o the only agencies allowed in the slums. No photos can be taken of the slum. But I did get a post card of the slum and posted it. they are a non-profit agency that teaches children English in the slums. Here is their website: To volunteer:

First we drove through the streets learning about some famous spots.
--> Did you know that there are 60,000 prostitutes in the red light district... In Mumbai?? Prostitution is illegal. However, due to "trafficking" women looking for work (not prostitution) are taken to the red light district, put into cages and used for prostitution. They are sold off for as little as 500 rupee (around $10) Most of the girls are 9-years old, taken from their families, drugged, caged and worked to death. Many of them get STDs and HIV/AIDS. So sad and unbelievable. How could a government let this continue?
--> 30 people a day fall off trains and die.
--> over 6-7 million people a day use the central or church line trains for transportation.
--> 90 million people live in Mumbai
--> Over 10,000 people a day do laundry in Dhoby... basically a giant laundry mate. Not to mention they do laundry in unsanitary conditions, many get malaria, typhoid and other illness'.

There are two types of slums
1) Pavement dwellers: those that have shacks by the road. Indian government does not provid water or sewage lines. However, if they have been living as dwellers before 1995 and were issued an ID then Indian government provides them with water and sewage. So weird.
2) Dharavi Slum: largest slum in the world and has a population density 20 times that of mumbai making it the most densely populated 'city' in the world.
*When we arrive to Dharavi we were not allowed to take photos. If caught taking photos its a 7000 rupee fine. This is due privacy issues.

More stats on the slum:
* 55% of Mumbai people live in the slums
* There are over 2,000 slums including Dharavi in Mumbai
* 1 million people live in 432 acres... what!? That gnarly...
* 50% of the people are Hindu, 40% muslim, and 10% Christian.
* Very few people speak English and there are many Indian dialects
* The first slum was made in 1840. It was used as a marsh, then a contractor started trowing trash in it and people started making houses to work closer to the city. Basically, one slum house turned into many slum houses, forming a town, then a city within a city. Slums are made illegally by the people, but the government cannot take them away. Why? Because there are too many people living in the slums and where will all those slumdogs go?
* Employment in the slums are 90%
* Slum annual income is 655 million

What do people do in the slums... WORK!
They work hard. Jobs Entail:
* Bakers: what most people don't know in India is that most baked goods like cookies, biscuits and other baked goods are made right in the Dharavi Slum... Gross right?--- 4 tons of food is produced a day. The government doesn't want people to know it is mede in the slums so they write "made in Mumbai" on it. Currently, the government is looking into building apartments where the bottom floor would be only for slum people and the rest of the floors would be used for other people to rent.

The slum also contains:
* 2 hospitals: according to Thomas most people live until they are 50 years old, due to chemicals they inhale while working and safety issues.
* 1 mosque and 1 church
* numerous shops
* jobs entail: textile workers, plastic dweller (note: all PC monitors from the USA go to India to be crushed and recycled... weird), leather industry (made from goats, sheep and buffalo... talk about disease and grossness, yuck... It smelled racid as we passed by. I tried not to vomit in my mouth). Papads making: a type of Indian tortilla. Women were using a PCP pipe and river water. Note: not HACCP approved, probably full of bacteria and grossness. But delicious. Another note to self... NEVER ordering PAPADS in the Indian restaurants again. Clay pot making: 1200 families live in this community and make pots (10.5 acres).

Housing: there is water for 3-hours a day... Only in the morning. The slum has free, yes free wi-fi and most people have TVs.
* 40 people share one bathroom
* homes have 2 levels and there are about 12 people living in 900 square feet
* There is not clean air, no lights in the narrow ally ways. There are lights only inside the homes and lots of electricity lines that hang above. You must be careful of the lines so you don't get electrocuted.

The Indian women take care of the kids. Due to lack of education the people throw their trash in their yards. This causes water contamination and diseases such a typhoid and malaria. The river that we passed by was nasty. Normally rivers are blue or clear. This one was pure black... Yes, black with animal and human poo and trash floating on top... Oh not to mention there were people SWIMMING in the black poopie water. So refreshing. The smells were so memorizing. It smelt at times like raw eggs, sulfur, vomit and urine, yummy.

Religion: In 1993 there was a riot between the Hindus' and muslims. The two religions separated after the Hindus' burnt down the muslim mosque. Employers started to duscriminate. Now, after 7-years the two religions live more in harmony.

Marriage: Dowery is a law. All marriage is paid by the women. However, the women owns the man, hahaha.

Schooling: private schools cost 200 rupee a month. More then 80 people a day learn English in the non-profit reality kids!
* Male literacy rate in India is 73%
* Female literacy rate in India is 48%
* 9 million children do not attend school

Overall, the slum was such an adventure and eye-opener of how lucky and fortunate we are to live where we do. They people seem really happy and they're such hard workers. After the slum tour we drove back, ate some bananas and did some yoga. After yoga we went and got some lunch as an AC restaurant since Mumbai weather was well into the 90s with humidity. I went and got my last acupuncture treatment from Neveen. We got a note under the door from the others letting us know that they were going for a walk. Naveen and I went for a walk as well to explore the city. It was getting dark but we managed to walk an hour to a beautiful spot and a 7-star hotel that was all lite up. We decided to to get some prom portrait for $1.40. Neveen's phone needed more money on it so he could call Heather to see where the group walked to. He decided to use the STD phone. Heather and everyone were back at the hotel. We decided to walk back and grab dinner with them. It was our last dinner together as a group, cause Dani and I were headed to New Delhi to see the Taj Mahl in the morning.

When Naveen and I were walking earlier he asked me if I was still enjoying India. I told him that the people are so nice but the place is truly dirty and I wished the Indian people would take better care of their beautiful city. Mumbai has such beautiful museums and architecture. However, Indians live in a dirty world... A world that is familiar to them. They don't understand the concept of cleanliness because its the way their environment is now and has been for a long time.

Naveen said "thank you for your honesty, finally." Then asked why I wanted to come to India in the first place. I tried to explain to him that India has always been a place that I wanted to travel to because it gets me out of my routine and control. India has true and pure culture. It is a place of non-materialism. A place where I am completely out of my element. Western culture thrives on an 8-5 job, then gym time, multi-tasking, happy hour and friend time. Its about what you're doing in the future. A great quote that Tom pointed out: "You can't do anything about the past... but you can ruin the present by worrying about the future." In India none of our USA world matters. Seating and being dirty are in. Not the latest technology and materialistic gear. I think in the end Neveen understood a bit more of why I came to India... But was possibly still a bit confused.

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